A Chinese reality show has sparked discussions about the anxieties and pressures of a relationship where a woman plays a more dominant role compared to a man.
The show “See You Again” features three couples embarking on an 18-day vacation to try to work out their marital issues. Meanwhile, a panel of celebrities and a psychologist offer running commentary on their arguments and experiences on the show.
The latest season, which premiered on Sept. 5, has become one of the most discussed reality shows in China in the past month, with dozens of related trending hashtags on microblogging platform Weibo racking up billions of views.
Much of the focus has been on the marriage between TV personality Fu Shou’er, 39, and her stay-at-home husband. While Fu has enjoyed professional success, her husband is unhappy due to feelings of irrelevance and being primarily responsible for managing their family affairs.
In one episode, Fu said that being the “dominant” one in the relationship was exhausting due to having to juggle both work and handling family matters, while also not wanting to complain to avoid hurting her husband’s self-esteem.
“Women have to make money but refrain from being too competent. They are asked to support the family but they can’t make the men feel they are no longer needed,” commented Melody Liu, a singer and talk show host on the show’s panel.
Li Songwei, the show’s psychologist, said on the show that there is a lack of acceptance of such “strong woman, weak man” relationships in Chinese society, which leaves the women in them doubting whether they are in a “good marriage” as defined by traditional norms.
The problems caused by the unconventional power dynamics in Fu’s marriage has been subject to heated debate online, with one related hashtag on Weibo asking “why strong woman, weak man marriages are doomed to fail.”
Launched in 2021 on MangoTV, “See You Again” is one of several Chinese reality shows that have emerged in recent years offering viewers insights into the less glamorous aspects of relationships. These shows have proved popular among young, single women in first and second-tier cities who often use such shows as guidebooks for relationships.
The show has won praise for showcasing the complexities of marriages, with a rating of 8.9 out of 10 on review site Douban for its first season. The show’s psychologist and producer have both expressed hopes that viewers become more open to discussing marriage troubles and divorce after watching the latest season.
Apart from power dynamics, the show also explores other common Chinese relationship issues, from the balance between family and career to the uneven division of household responsibilities.
“In the current social environment, women have to understand others’ needs … while men seldom face such expectations,” said Huang Zhizhong, another TV personality on the panel, after an argument between another couple featured on the show.
Some viewers have criticized the current season for straying away from its original focus on divorcees to focus more on still-married people. The Douban rating of 7.2 out of 10 for the current season is the lowest of the show’s three seasons.
Editor: Vincent Chow.
(Header image: Posters of “See You Again.” From @再见爱人 on Weibo)
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